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Key coverage trends in September 2023
Each month, we analyze thousands of news articles to identify the most important topics in the games industry. We look past the hype to understand what matters most to the media.
As the summer lull came to an end, September saw increased coverage in a number of key categories. Leading the way once again was AI, which, at just under 10,000 mentions, had its strongest month in all our recorded data. AI news spiked late in the month due to the end of the US writers’ strike – many commentators pointed out that the games industry also faces challenges from AI-generated content. We expect AI to continue to dominate in terms of the volume of stories.
There were many stories on esports during the month, with the Asian Games (featuring esports for the first time), and the huge “Gamers8” tournament in Saudi Arabia leading the news.
One upsetting trend in September was the significant leap in stories around layoffs, led by Epic and Sega (via their cancelled “Hyenas” title) – this category saw a jump of almost 600%.
Other notable story came via the mental health section with a a study showing that gamers displayed surprisingly good mental and physical health. Long may that last!
Change in coverage volumes by topic compared to August 2023
Following the quiet news month that we always expect in August due to holidays and a typically reduced release schedule, we saw the predicted September bounce in coverage volumes.
Four categories were down, but eleven were up, including some very large increases. Sadly, the biggest of all was “layoffs”, with stories up by 575% over the previous month.
Coverage trends by topic
AI remains the biggest ongoing story for the industry. With just under 10,000 mentions, the topic had its strongest month in all our recorded data. AI news spiked late in the month due to the end of the US writers’ strike – many commentators pointed out that the games industry also faces AI-related issues. Another big story concerned the FTC, which announced a virtual roundtable to discuss AI and the creative economy.
The BFI had an excellent story exploring adaptations of video games over the last 40 years, tying in nicely with Netflix’s announcement of a number of new game-related adaptations. The link between IP and games was also highlighted, with Epic Games bringing on board an IP expert as their new Chief Creative Officer.
Although the topic continues to receive a lot of crypto-related hype, genuine developments continue to emerge. September saw Mark Zuckerberg showing off new virtual avatars, which are beginning to look incredibly realistic. The Wall Street Journal suggested that young people are already in the Metaverse, and Meta announced a new headset with impressive VR/AR capabilities.
Riyadh hosted the Next World Forum in September, and mentions of diversity were widely covered on newswires, leading to coverage in over 500 outlets. Elsewhere, an ugly row emerged during the launch of AAA game “Starfield” due to the game offering a choice of pronouns.
To help promote positive mental health, the BBC “Children in Need” campaign received coverage for its new “Game to Give” initiative. A striking example of the debate between the positive and negative arguments surrounding gaming and mental health was wonderfully displayed on MSN, which wrote on both the “shocking news” that gamers are healthy, and also “the toll of childhood obesity” (partly blaming gaming for this).
Two new online Casino apps were heavily promoted, BetMGM and Cash and Dash. The month featured the usual slew of scare stories, for example, concerns in India about the return of “addictive” games such as “PUBG” following the lifting of a government ban.
Mergers & Acquisitions
The topic had a relatively quiet month, with a couple of standout stories. The UK’s regulator indicated they would greenlight the Microsoft/Activision merger, and Capcom’s CEO said they would turn down a merger with Microsoft. With the Microsoft/Activision deal due to close during October, we expect a big spike in coverage in our next report.
Capcom’s CEO waded in on this topic as well last month, raising eyebrows by claiming “game prices are too low”. Other stories receiving plenty of coverage included “Grand Theft Auto Online”, which celebrated its 10th Anniversary, earning billions of dollars in lifetime revenue, and refunds for players tricked into purchases by Epic’s “Fortnite” game.
This topic continues to bubble away, it could explode at any time. Three stories highlighted this – the labour union IATSE is laying the groundwork for the first game workers union, and concerns were shown in stark relief via a new survey showing that almost half of the workers consider their careers unsustainable. Meanwhile, SAG-AFTRA continue talks that could end in a strike.
Sadly, a very busy month of stories in this category, increasing by almost sixfold over August. The biggest story came from Epic Games, whilst Sega’s cancellation of marquee title “Hyenas” also received plenty of coverage. An interesting article discussed the widely-followed developer Rami Ismail, who described 2023 as “full of great games but atrocious for the industry”.
The topic continues to receive a small but steady trickle of coverage. Of particular note is that governments are looking at the issue, Germany being the latest, and Australia implementing strict age-ratings. Epic Games also hit the news, paying out $2.7m following a class-action lawsuit due to their unfair implementation of the items.
The topic had a quiet month overall, but we note that Microsoft was awarded the title of “best company in the world” by Time and Statista.
A standout story for the month suggested that racism was rampant in online gaming. Other stories included a feature from the new “Call of Duty” game which will use AI to combat toxic voice chats, and the Asian Games, mentioned elsewhere, received negative coverage over news that only 8 of the nearly 500 players were women.
The topic is one that ignites passion in gamers rather than executives but throws up interesting stories on a regular basis. Highlights from last month included “Antstream Arcade” hitting the Xbox platform. The service includes over 1300 classic games. Retro-themed online store “GOG Games” celebrated its 15th anniversary, and Xbox boss Phil Spencer said he would love to keep Xbox 360 games from being lost as a shutdown to access older titles loomed.
The Asian Games featured esports for the first time, and the Gamers8 tournament led esports news – HRH Prince Mohammed’s esports and game strategy launch and mentions in his interview were also widely covered.
This data was collected from an online search of news stories published between September 1st and September 30th 2023.
The data is restricted to news stories, in English only, from all globally available sources classed primarily as news sites covering the games industry. It does not include social media posts or blog content.
Efforts have been made to use the most accurate search terms, with filters to remove commonly occurring false positives but with over 32,000 pieces of data gathered, 100% accuracy cannot be guaranteed.